Archive for February, 2012


Yesterday my daughter and I went to Stitches, the knitting convention, which we attend every year.  We go for the market,  a huge hall where vendors from all over the US and sometimes other countries offer their wares from decorated booths.  It is gorgeous and exhausting and lots of fun.  This year I got a little bit of sock yarn and several knitting patterns and enjoyed watching the ladies walk around wearing their creations.  Every year, though, I observe that when you are in a large crowd that is mostly made up of women, most of them seem to have no concept of space and/or traffic management.  They will crowd together in the aisles, blocking everyone else, clobber you with their rolly carts and cases, bump into you and not keep to their side of the walkway.  Yesterday I saw two young ladies with big strollers put their strollers nose to nose across the width of the aisle forming an effective traffic barrier so that they could chat with each other.  I had to say “Move along Babies” to get to the booth I was interested in.  The ladies seemed to be surprised that they had blocked traffic.  In addition to this, another funny sight are the non-knitter/husband men who attend and are waiting for their partners.  They have a ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ stunned look as they sit dejectedly on the sidelines or walk endlessly pushing strollers waiting for this whole thing to finally be over so they can just go home.  But the knitting you get to see is wonderful, like an endless crowded fashion show on women (and men) of all sizes and skill levels.  This year there were a lot of small shawls in striking colors.

After Stitches we drove up to San Mateo to attend the Sewing and Craft Festival, or whatever it is called.  Admittance was free this year, but they really charge you for the parking.  The parking fee must provide most of the profit.  Most of the booths are for quilters, so it didn’t take long for us to go through the whole thing, though if you were a quilter you would have spent hours and hours looking at everything.  One item in particular was great – a woodworker who made murphy beds and applied the same concept to a sewing desk. It looks like a cabinet on the wall but folds out to be a cutting and sewing surface.  I forgot to get his card.  M found some really pretty beads from one of the several beading booths, and I got a roll of embroidery stabilizer from a company I hadn’t heard of before.  I’ll try it out and see how it works because it was vastly cheaper than the stuff I used to get in the fabric store.

So we spent the whole day in fiber pursuits and were gone over twelve hours.  We drove down the bay to Santa Clara, then up the peninsula to San Mateo, across the bridge, over the hills, through the tunnel, and miles and miles to home again.  It was the first time in years it hasn’t rained on Stitches day, so it was a lovely drive.


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Spring Has Sprung

Right on schedule, the trees are blooming and the patch of violets in the front lawn is providing the first whiff of springtime.  I’m going to see the younger daughter this weekend so decided to finish up that slip I was making for her.  I had it all finished except for the lace around the hemline but the project got stalled because the slip needed to be tried on for length.  Even after she visited and tried it on, it still languished in a pile of fabric next to the sewing machine.   This was silly because it took less than a half hour to finish it off.

Here’s a view of the pattern I used.  I can’t remember when I got this pattern, but I think this version is more recent than some of the other versions of this pattern I’ve got in the stash.  Maybe it’s only been in the stash 20 years or so…

I have a great lingerie book from the 70’s (The Feminine Art, Lingerie Sewing by Dolores Krinke) that shows many different ways to sew straps for lingerie, and I used some of the suggestions for the straps for this slip.  When you make lingerie for a specific person, you don’t need to make the straps adjustable because you can fit the garment on the person and make the straps the correct length.

The following close-up shows the lace around the top and the straps:

I wish you could still get the quality of nylon tricot that was available back in the heyday of lingerie sewing because the stuff nowadays is a lot thinner.  On the plus side, though, it is anti-static and comes in great colors.  I have a lot of tricot in a gorgeous dark teal that will be a joy to sew.

So, scratch one item off my UFO list.

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I’ve heard of tambour embroidery and always liked the idea of an easier-to-do and not-so-time-consuming method of doing chain stitch.  I was at the JoAnn sale this Friday and saw an embroidery frame that clamps to the table, and since there was a discount coupon in the sale flyer, I bought one.  The next day I was driving home from IKEA and stopped at Lacis in Berkeley where I found the tambour hook.

A faint memory told me that there are instructions in the old Th. de Dillmont Encyclopedia of Needlework book  with pictures of the old method of doing this embroidery, and this resulted in a long search for the book.  There was a time when I knew where all my books were, but I guess the number of books in my library has gotten too big over the years.  Finally I found the book right where it was supposed to be, and I also remembered a recent purchase from the used-book store on Tambour Crochet.

The Enclylopedia of Needlework is available online, but those copies must be different from mine because they don’t seem to have the section on Tambour work.  Maybe the popularity this embroidery waned and that section was removed from the book in later editions. Here are the diagrams that are in my copy:

The hook style hasn’t changed at all in 120 years, though you could also use a regular crochet hook or other types of latch hooks.

I’m definitely going to give this a try because I love chain stitch embroidery on a garment.  In other news, I was surprised to find that IKEA is not selling single sheets anymore, and only sheet sets are offered that include a top and bottom sheet and two pillow cases.  I used to get the Dvala sheets in a queen size for about $7 but the sheet set is closer to $25.  This makes them not cost effective for sewing purposes, alas, unless you want to make pillowcase dresses or need more pillow cases.  However, there was a pink sheet set (Oleby, 100% cotton) that I have long admired because the slightly tan pink color is very pretty, but it was previously too expensive.  Now they are closing it out for only $19.99 for a king set with two sheets plus pillow cases and these are 300 threadcount sheets.  That is a good price for so much yardage.  Using my rusty math skills, that would be the equivalent of about 17 yards of fabric not counting the pillow cases.  I see some pink aprons and bag linings in the future.

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The little embroidery machine is out of the shop and back home.  The problem was with the thread sensor, apparently.  I tried it out this morning and it seems to be fine:

My camera is still going crazy, though.  At least I can get a few pictures out of it while scraping up the $$ for a new one.  It keeps switching to video mode and uses up the battery charge quickly.  I have had it for 6 or 7 years, which I guess is extreme old age for a tech gadget.

I made my usual trip to Sebastopol a week or so ago and came back with lots of vintage needlecraft pamphlets and a few vintage patterns.

This pattern above might make an OK house dress and dates to the 70’s. The dress shown below is either ugly or not too bad depending on the fabric choice.  I’ll have to think about it.

My mom had a pattern like this (now in my collection somewhere) and I always wanted to sew a textured corduroy pillow or pillows.  The small wale fabric looks pretty smocked or tufted but haven’t seen it quilted before, and that looks great, too.

This one dates back to the 20’s so is in very good shape considering its age.

Still no action on the serger front, but I hope to tackle that machine soon.  Yesterday I was making a huge cake for the spouse’s office for Valentine’s Day and covering it with some heart and glitter sprinkles I got from the seasonal section at the Walmart.  I often make treats for the office staff, especially during tax season.

Still haven’t started a new sewing project yet because I’ve been tracing patterns, but maybe today is the day.

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My camera is acting up today, and I am afraid it is slowly losing the fight against advanced age.  It is about 7 years old now, and has always been a good little camera.  I tried hard to never drop it, which was hard because I am not the world’s most coordinated person, but I succeeded.  Maybe after the camera recharges and rests for awhile I can get some pictures to show.

I don’t like marmalade much, and now that I am allergic to citrus rind, I won’t eat it anyway, but I am interested in making some to give as gifts.  I have an orange tree, and an anemic lemon tree, but my brother gave me a bag of lovely lemons, so today I am going to give the marmalade a try.   That’s the nice thing about living in the West – the lovely organic citrus in just about every yard.  The oranges on our tree have always been very sour, but they might make good marmalade, and I can substitute the juice for lemon juice in an emergency.  I also found a link to this recipe,


which sounds similar to one that was popular when I was newly married, only that one used apricot jam.

There’s no sense going to all the trouble of getting out the canning pot and doing all the dish washing for just one batch of jam, so I may as well do a few batches of plum jam too.  I need the room in the freezer.  I chop up the plums and store them in the freezer every summer to wait for cooler jam-making weather.

Yesterday I made my usual visit to the thrift store in Sebastopol.  It is a lovely drive in the spring, and the new lambs were in the fields with their shorn moms, the cows were sitting down in the slight rain, and a flock of Canada geese were all over another field.  The almonds are blooming and the fields were full of mustard flowers.  I found lots of old knitting and crochet books, a few patterns, and some pretty long lengths of fabric to use for muslins or little girl dresses.

UPDATE:  Well, making marmalade is quite a production, isn’t it?  There’s a lot of peeling off the rind, taking off the pith, chopping the fruit and peel, and watching for seeds – quite a bit different from plum jam where you just wash and pit the plums and toss them into the food processor for a quick chop.  I did two batches of plum jam, too, so the final count is  7 half pints of marmalade and 9 pints of plum jam.  The camera decided to cooperate.

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I used up my roll of butcher paper that I use to trace patterns so it was time to go buy some more.  I get my paper at a restaurant supply store near my home.  The paper comes in big rolls and is not a cheap purchase depending on the width of the paper, but these are BIG rolls of paper and will last a long, long time.  I don’t even remember when I got the old roll, but it has to be more than 5 years ago.  I also have a very wide roll for bigger projects, but I am afraid it will fall on someone so I keep it tucked away in the corner behind a table.  I’m going to have to come up with a better storage solution because it is hard to access.  I also keep a smaller roll on the floor of the sewing room, and that is the one I replaced today:

This roll is 18″ wide and 1300 feet long.  It cost about $35 which ends up being a little over 8 cents a yard.  I notice that the paper is a little lighter in thickness than the paper used to be, but in this economy a lot of products are smaller/thinner/skimpier than they used to be.  For my purposes this is a good change since my only complaint about the paper before was that it was a little stiffer than necessary, and now it isn’t.  I don’t know what butchers think about this, but it works for me.  Here’s what the label on the roll looks like:

The paper isn’t really thin enough to see through, so when I trace patterns, I put the pattern on the top of the paper and trace the lines with a Flair pen.  The ink soaks through enough so that it transfer the lines to the butcher paper underneath.

Here is my completed blouse pattern traced off onto the butcher paper and ready for the first tryout.  I only get the urge to trace off patterns once in awhile, so I have to hurry and do a few before the mojo evaporates.  I also want to trace a tank top and a sweater cardigan so I can make twin sets.

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I’m always on the lookout for old sewing books and pamphlets at the library booksale and at thrift shops.  Here are two new acquisitions:

This is a large ring binder and has nice illustrations and is dated 1961.  It is very basic, and is not a comprehensive sewing book that will answer your every question.  For example, if you are looking for information on sewing a kick pleat, you won’t find it in the index.  For beginners, though, it is a very good basic sewing book.  Below is a sample page showing french seams.

The book was well worth the big $1 price I paid at the library sale and is in nice condition.

The pamphlet is small but packs in a lot of information in its 64 pages.  It is dated 1951, so it is for the post-war,  short-of-money-and-materials population.  There are lots of hints for making do with what you have, refashioning, and decorating.

The page below was kind of funny, because of the way the grandmother is pictured.  The older generation is thought of as a lot peppier these days, since grandma is probably line dancing down at the Senior Center or scuba diving in the Bahamas:

Today I am actually following through on my goal to alter some basic patterns for myself.  I decided to start with a princess seamed, 3/4-length sleeve blouse, and have just started tracing off the pattern.  It is a lovely day here in California, a little chilly but sunny.  Spring is on the way, I hope.



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